Are Your Movements Causing You More Harm than Good?

From the day we are born, humans are constantly learning how to move. Most people learn fundamental movement patterns such as reaching, crawling, squatting, walking and running in succession and these skills serve as the foundation for movement throughout life. These movements are learned through many hours of trial and error and become solidified with more and more practice. But over time, the movements can be forgotten due to a lack of practice or even replaced with faulty patterns as a result of practicing bad habits. A great example is a deep squat. A curious baby can comfortably stay in a deep squat for minutes at a time while exploring an object on the floor but many adults find a deep squat uncomfortable or even impossible. Patterns such as the deep squat can be “unlearned” as a result of injury, exercise history, vocation or choice of hobbies. With so many potential ways for a pattern to break down, it can be hard to tell which fundamental patterns a person has maintained and which they need to regain. Furthermore, movement patterns are not related to skills or conditioning so athletic ability, strength, and fitness are very poor predictors of movement ability. Movement ability contributes to efficiency and safety, especially in challenging situations such as lifting weights, going on a long run or playing sports. Before engaging in any of these demanding activities, it is imperative to determine which patterns you can accomplish well and which patterns have limitations.

Movement screening is a systematic evaluation of basic movement patterns that can be used in a logical way to observe movement ability. Without screening, a workout can be like a shot in the dark with the trainer forced to throw out exercises at a vaguely defined problem. But screening allows for a scientific process that quickly determines which exercises are helping to improve the client’s most significant limitation and which exercises are not. Since movement ability is a matter of learning, dramatic results can be achieved within one session if the client is able to experience a well-tailored series of challenges. A more permanent adaptation will be made within 2-4 weeks as the brain and body are required to deliberately practice the new pattern. Furthermore, the “goal” of training movement ability is not to achieve perfection in every movement but rather simply to reach an acceptable level that will serve as the base from which to pursue a specific goal, such as increased fitness, weight loss or athletic performance. The rapid rate of neurological adaptation and the simple goal of attaining only a minimum standard ensure that hours of workouts are not spent trying to get “perfect form” on various exercises. Instead, investing a relatively small amount of time into learning fundamental movements will contribute to a natural ability to meet any challenge your body confronts.

Movement ability can be compromised as normal patterns are forgotten or replaced with bad habits but regular, consistent screening allows for the implementation of challenging exercises to resolve movement limitations. Once effective movement is achieved, training for increased physical performance can resume. By serving as the base for effective training, competent movement ability releases the body to train at a higher level and achieve previously untouched levels of performance.

If you would like to talk more about motor learning or movement screening please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer. If you would like to better understand the necessity of movement screening and implementation of a movement screen, see the book Movement by Gray Cook.

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